Wednesday, June 16, 2010
It's tough to gauge the implications for 90s pop culture when one of the decade's most popular sitcom had a premise entirely devoted to "nothing." What exactly does it mean that we in the 90s openly embraced nihilistic entertainment that indulged the minutiae of everyday life. At a time when most sitcoms focused on learning valuable and ultimately heartwarming family-friendly lessons, Seinfeld held its own stubbornly dedicated to a principle Jerry Seinfeld referred to as "no hugging, no learning." That is, there don't have to be happy endings; in fact, it's much funnier without them.
Seinfeld ran on NBC from 1989-1998, though much of its enduring popularity stems from widespread syndication. As children, many of us may have missed the subtle (read: not child-friendly) nuances of the show, but as grownups we have plentiful opportunities to reconnect with Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer--the show still airs two or three times a day in most US markets. It's a testament to the show's longevity that it still enjoys moderate rating popularity in syndication over a decade after the series finale.
While many shows fail to stand the test of time, the humor of Seinfeld transcends current cultural references. Its absurdity and complete lack of moral compass make it an enduring favorite. Apparently sociopathic neuroses never go out of style. Good to know, huh?
As a sitcom, Seinfeld had a unique skill for coinage and infiltration of popular culture. While the show's writers claim they did not generally set out to create memorable catchphrases, many popular episodes launched witty one-liners and phrases into our lexicon. There is something so eminently quotable about the show, it's tough to keep even the now-most overused of phrases from slipping into our everyday conversation. In fact, just the other day, I shook a woman's hand and immediately realized she had the definitive man-hands: I could practically see her tearing those lobster claws with those burly paws of hers. It just goes to show: without the handy aid of Seinfeld, we may never have morphed into the nit-picking, easily irritated mentally maladjusted individuals we are today.
While this single post can by no means offer a comprehensive list of Seinfeld catchphrase, below are a random sampling of Seinfeldisms. You're welcome to drop your own favorites in the comments section. If you're ever desperately in need of an overly fault-seeking critique or assessment of a trivial situation, look no further than these helpful words and phrases.
"Yada, Yada, Yada"
"Yada, Yada, Yada" serves as a handy means of glossing over potentially incriminating details in a story. In the case of a long and boring anecdote, yada-ing can also help get to the point before your audience loses all interest.
"Master of Your Domain"
In the Seinfeld episode "The Contest," George's mother catches him in a rather indelicate situation, prompting the group to speculate on who can last the longest without becoming, er, master of their domain. Allegedly the story is based on an actual experience of writer Larry David, which is either very funny or very disturbing depending on how you look at it.
"Low Talker" "Close Talker" "High Talker"
These unfortunate speech habits can lead to some pretty awkward situations--a "low talker," for example, might so quietly ask you to wear a puffy pirate shirt on network television that you fail to comprehend the request. Totally humiliating.
"No Soup for You!"
Possibly one of the most-quoted Seinfeld language, the so-called "Soup Nazi" was actually inspired by real New York soup shop owner Al Yegeneh, who was justifiably less than pleased with his portrayal on the show. True story notwithstanding, actor Larry Thomas plays a delightfully deadpan version of the temperamental soup vendor, expelling customers from his shop for the most minor indiscretions.
"These Pretzels are Making Me Thirsty!"
After landing a bit part in a Woody Allen film, Kramer delivers his totally unnecessary one-liner, "These pretzels are making me thirsty!" The line popped up in several subsequent episodes, serving as an interchangeable expression of annoyance and irritation.
Poor George just can't catch a break; he seems forever destined to endure one soul-crushingly humiliating situation after another. Following a dip in the chilly water, George's female Hamptons housemate catches him changes and makes some rather cruel digs at what she saw, leading George to defend himself with the airtight "I was in the pool!" To get revenge, he tricks her to disobey religious dietary laws by eating lobster. Not a perfect revenge, but a satisfying one nonetheless.
Want to cause a scene at your girlfriend's aunt's funeral reception? Here's a foolproof trick: disgust everyone in attendance by dipping a chip, taking a bite, and then redipping the chip after mouth contact. Worked for George.
In "The Voice," Jerry is faced with a crucial dilemma: he must choose between his attractive girlfriend and his oddly deep-voiced impression of what he imagines her stomach would sound like if it could talk. Truly a problem for the ages. To be fair, the voice is hilarious, but Jerry's girlfriend didn't see it that way. You've got to really love an impression to sacrifice love and affection for the privilege of bellowing, "HELLOOOOO!"
It's usually pretty helpful to have a fake name on hand for all situations that warrant it--a person you're meeting in a random office lobby, the employer you claim to be interviewing with, or an imaginary boyfriend or client. Just don't be upset if this pseudonym turns out to be not only a real person, but the judge in your controversial series finale trial. Believe me, it happens.